Tag Archives: Carlsbad Caverns

Cavesicles and Bat Flights (or lack thereof)

It amazes me that one day someone walking in the barren wilderness of New Mexico stumbled across Carlsbad Caverns. That person had no idea the amazing piece of land that they found. Because it’s dark in there. And I doubt they had a flashlight.

There are two hiking trails in the caves and we managed to get there before the first one closed. We kicked off the hike at the cleverly named “Natural Entrance”:

DA MOUF

It’s really quiet going in there because anything you say echoes very loudly. So much as a soft fart can be heard by all. Trust me on this one.

The caves are beautiful. There are facts along the way that describe what you’re looking at, how it formed, and so on. All of it was interesting, but I can’t remember anything of significance. It’s also enormous in there. So big that they only let tourists in certain areas of the cave. Apparently they’re still discovering new parts in the places where tourists aren’t allowed. Also, there’s a part that’s called (and I kid you not) the “Bat Cave”. I think it’s where Christian Bale lives. But more on that later.

As expected, there were stalactites and stalagmites all over the place. Or as I like to call them, “cavesicles”.

Cool cavesicles

Pretty sweet right? These bad boys were everywhere. It was hard to get good pictures, so I had to just use my memory instead (which sucked).

About 2 hours of hiking later, we made it through everything we were allowed to see, so we headed to the surface (oddly enough, on the elevator we met people from my hometown).

At the visitor’s center, we were told that they were having a “bat flight” showing at dusk, so we had some time to kill until then. On our way in, we noticed there was a “scenic route” for driving. We headed that way. This is what we saw.
Barren wilderness

For 9 wonderful miles, this was it. Cool? Yes. For 9 miles? No.

Then we realized we had a problem. The car was almost out of gas, and we weren’t even a third of the way done. There was no way to turn around as the road was a single lane rocks and dirt with nature to the left and right. And when I say out of gas, I mean the needle is ON the line for empty. Was the gas light on? No. Because the gas light in my care doesn’t work.

Panic mode sets in – all I can think about is us getting stranded miles from civilization for the night. After about 30 minutes of anxiety, we made it to the exit. Back to the visitor’s center and done crying in time for the bat flight.

Apparently, thousands of bats live in the “Bat Cave” inside the caverns. When the sun is setting, they fly out and go hunt. There’s an amphitheater there to sit and watch. I know what you’re thinking – “That sounds awesome!” “It’s probably just like in Batman!” “I hope they don’t poop on you!” Well it’s not awesome, nothing like Batman, and they do poop on you.

Well they don’t poop on you. The bats trickle out for minute after painstakingly slow minute. There’s no climax, no rush of wind from flapping wings, and definitely no crazy Batman-esque appearance. We gave it a shot, but after a while decided it was time to go.

We hopped in the car to head to our campsite. Then we realized that, although we made it out of the scenic route alive, there still was no gas in the car. Which is a major problem, because the closest gas station is at the entrance to the park, 7 miles away. Anxiety returned as I started the car and saw that the needle was not BELOW the empty line. We headed out and naturally got stuck behind the slowest driver known to man. At a roaring 20 mph we made our way down the winding, hilly road. Each tap of the gas pedal felt like it would be the last. With all my fingernails bitten off and sweat pouring down my face we finally reached the gas station.

Little did we know that wasn’t the last of our issues that night.

Mexico? No thanks.

Arizona morning

The sun shone through the clouds as we made our way out of the campground and to Carlsbad, New Mexico. Arizona, along with most of the Southwest, had some pretty interesting landscapes. There were always mountains in the distance, but not a mountain range. Just randomly placed mountains. And not really any grass either. Just dirt and shrubs.

And giant cacti. And no people. And no water. And a lot of sun. And misery.

To be honest, I liked it. I wouldn’t live there, but it was a cool place to see and visit again. If it was between there and Toledo.

Because it’s so flat in the Southwest, it makes rain very deceiving. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is a rainy season in the Southwest. No winter, spring, summer or fall – just the dry season and the rainy season. We were there during the rainy season. This means that it normally rains once a day or so in quick spurts – not miserably pee on you for  6 days straight like it does up north. So as we drove along the highway, we could see rain clouds dotting the landscape. We could see for miles and miles, so we’d see rain that never even got close to us but drenched a large area of land.

It’s not like here in Pennsylvania where the weather is pretty much the same across the entire state. It took me a while to realize this, just long enough for my aversion to driving in thunderstorms kicked in.

When I was done silently weeping at the thought of driving in a thunderstorm I realized we had a strange route ahead of us. We entered New Mexico from the west, and were going across the state. But the fastest way to get there was to go down south into Texas and then back up north into New Mexico. As we entered Texas, we drove through El Paso. For those who are unaware, El Paso is on the border of Texas and Mexico. The city across the fence in Mexico is called Ciudad Juarez, and we had a perfect view.

It looked dirty and scary.

That was the closest I’d ever gotten to Mexico. To this day I pray I never have to get that close again. I saw one murder and three stabbings in 12 minutes. And somehow got high.

Screaming in terror from the sight of Mexico, we got off the highway for a less traveled state route back up to New Mexico. We barreled down the road until we came to an odd structure where we had to stop. As we got closer, we realized it was a Border Patrol station. Which was weird, because we were about 50 miles from the border. My guess is that if someone is sneaking into the USA, they’re not going to wait 50 miles to get off of the main road. Just a thought, border patrol.

So for the second time in three days, my car was searched for weapons and drugs. The dog didn’t find any drugs, and luckily, Carlos – who we had hidden in the backseat – kept quiet, so we were free to go.

We stopped at a rest stop to eat and let Carlos run like the wind. Here’s our view – it’s like where we stopped in Iowa but hotter and no corn or water and with dirt, shrubs and a mountain in the distance. So basically the same.

TexasBetz peed on the pavement like a dog and we made the final leg to Carlsbad Caverns. About 30 or 40 miles from the Caverns, the landscape had FINALLY changed. We were going through a mountainous area with great views of the land around us. As I gaped at how far we could see, I turned to see Betz asleep. Poor guy missed the one and only exciting part of the drive.

His loss.

We got the Caverns, parked, and made our way into the Visitor’s Center. After seeing rock and dirt all day, we made our way to mouth of the cave to hike through more rock and dirt. But this time it was dark.

And with lots of fat people.